Homemade Yogurt, Dependably Good, Lower Environmental Impact, and Incredibly Frugal

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On average a gallon of organic whole milk costs six dollars.  One plain cup of unflavored yogurt costs around one dollar.  This is all you need to make yogurt.  For seven dollars you can easily make a gallon of organic, rich, pure yogurt; that works out to about $1.75 per quart.  I have access to a local farmer’s milk, which I get directly into my own glass gallon jugs, which makes it even cheaper!  For starter yogurt I love to buy Fiddle Creek Dairy yogurt which comes in glass jars.  They treat their Jersey cows right; they are 100% grass-fed and, I know from visiting their verdant farm, are very happy and loved.

Being such an economical source of protein and calcium, I use it for breakfast, for smoothies, in sauces, in place of sour cream, and served plain alongside spicy curries.  It is easy to make, even without special equipment.

In yogurt-making, there is one thing to be finicky about:  cleanliness.  Thoroughly wash, in hot soapy water, everything that you will use; pot, spoon, ladle, jars, etc.  Some recipes call for sterilizing everything with boiling water, but I’ve never found that necessary as long as everything has just been washed well.

What you don’t have to be finicky about:  measuring.  I pour whatever amount of milk I have into a pot, and for the starter yogurt I scoop out about a cup’s worth, no matter the quantity of milk.

So, without further ado….

  1.  Heat whole milk over medium-low heat until it reaches 180 degrees.  Remove from heat and let it cool to 115 (you can ice bath it if you want to hurry up the cooling).
  2. Dump in your starter yogurt.  Do not whisk it, do not harass it at all!  You want to keep the integrity to the yogurt.  (This was the best advice I’ve received in all my years of making yogurt; it truly makes a difference in the final texture).  If you are going to be pouring the yogurt into several containers, just make sure each one gets some of the yogurt blob.
  3. Pour into large glass jar(s).  Situate them, without lids, in a cooler or bucket of hot water, making sure it comes up as far on the jars as it can without floating them.  Cover with heavy towels or blankets and let them incubate for at least six hours, even overnight is fine as long as the heat is maintained.
  4. Refrigerate and enjoy!!!

Some folks use their homemade yogurt as their starter for the next batch, but I don’t.  I find more success with starting with a fresh culture, and I love the quality of Fiddle Creek Dairy’s yogurt.  Their glass jars are also handy around the house or are readily recyclable!

So there you have it…less packaging waste, saved money, and a tasty, easy, healthy food!

 

He’s Beautiful

He’s beautiful and were there ever smiles like his?

I’m just your foster aunt,

Just your temporary aunt,

You won’t remember me; you will give your smiles into others’ eyes.

But dear baby, you are ever

And always will be

Loved

Prayed for

Remembered with joy.

May the Lord watch over you

And your kinfolk love on you as you were made to be loved.

We’re so glad you lightened up our lives

And as you go

Our hearts trail after.silence

 

 

Addressing the Elephant

The few days have passed since I wrote, with much fear and trembling, an unfavorable critique on multi-level marketing, specifically addressing how it places an undue, and monetarily-incentivizing, burden on natural social networks, you know, family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc.  Nothing I’ve ever written has been so broadly shared, nor have I ever received such a volume of private correspondence as a result.  It triggered a lot of response, and I believe I understand why.

I said what the friends, what the family, what the coworkers are too nice to say.  No one wants to be the heel that says, “Hey, this is getting ridiculous.  People are avoiding you and rolling their eyes when your name is mentioned because you’re a real live infomercial half the time.  I get that you’re happy, but you’re making others unhappy.”

Sometimes you’ve just got to mention the elephant.  But only if you care deeply about the other people in the room with you.  And I do.  So should you.

For those I offended, I wish you could see the emails I received; there’s a lot of broken relationships, a lot of rift, tension, and hurt.  For some it’s almost like a death occurred; their friend was never the same after they became a MLM seller, distributor, or whatever designation the MLM gives them.  Many people told me how they’d love to share my article but were too afraid of the backlash they’d get.  Others quietly unfriended on social media, tired of their feed being filled with MLM propaganda, even though they genuinely loved and cherished the ones posting such.

There’s been so much hurt.

Please consider…this isn’t “like any other business.”  Not.  At.  All.

Multi-Level Marketing Hurts Relationships (ack, I said it)

I was waiting for my kids’ bus in the hot May sunshine, my toddler lounging in his stroller, both of us wilting a bit.  A lady with a tot of her own approached, waiting for her kids as well.  We struck up a conversation, and within a minute there was a glossy Mary Kay or Herbalife or some-such catalog pressed into my hand.

“Um…I actually don’t use much on my skin other than coconut oil…I…uh…”  She wouldn’t take the thing back.  “Just look it over!  Let me know if you need anything; you can return it to me later if you don’t want to order”.  Right.  Thank you for saddling me with this catalog that I think you probably even had to buy, and which I will guiltily put into the trash, because this stuff is all expensive.

………………

A friend’s dad offered to drive me home from summer camp along with his daughter.  It was a two-hour drive during which he played back-to-back Amway motivational tapes.  I came home marveling that anyone who wanted to have everything they ever wanted, especially a mansion with horse stables, could certainly do so, if only they’d believe, reach their goals, become a Diamond, or a Super Duper, or a some-such.  I visited their home a year later and was sort of struck dumb by all their homemade posters with motivational phrases plastered all over the walls.  They lived in a very sad little home; I wondered when their ship was going to come in.  The posters said it was right around the corner.

…………………

I’ve been to my fair share of “parties”, even hosted one Pampered Chef one, mainly to please a friend and to eat snacks, but I felt like a heel.  I know how I felt when attending one; flipping through the catalog and thinking, “What is cheap enough that I can buy and not disappoint my friend by buying nothing.”  As I saw people I loved filling my living room I wondered if they were thinking the same thing, feigning the same “interest”.

There is a specific cringe I feel, and I don’t believe I’m alone in this, when anyone announces via social media that “I’m starting my own business!” and it’s one of the myriad of multi-level marketing companies.  Always the glowing triumphalism, the certainty of a changed life, the financial compensation to come, the invitations to parties, e-parties (which, I mean, there aren’t even snacks!!), and on and on.  After a while it seems my Facebook feed is one long infomercial.

And then there’s the heart-to-heart with a friend when all of a sudden they’re recommending one of their products as the solution to your problem, and you just feel sort of…used, targeted.  Like some marketing strategy or salesperson just butted-in where the intimacy of friendship was filling it’s healing, commiserating role.  C.S. Lewis, in his book “The Four Loves” remarks on the disinterested nature of true friendship, to be understood as not wanting the friendship for anything other than the friendship itself.  It is not a means to any other end.

“A friend will, to be sure, prove himself to be also an ally when alliance becomes necessary; will lend or give when we are in need, nurse us in our sickness, stand up for us among our enemies, do what he can for our widows and orphans.  But such good offices are not the stuff of Friendship.  The occasions for them are almost interruptions.  They are in one way relevant to it, in another not.  Relevant, because you would be a false friend if you would not do them when the need arose; irrelevant, because the role of the benefactor always remains accidental, even a little alien, to that of Friend.  It is almost embarrassing.  For Friendship is utterly free from Affection’s need to be needed.  We are sorry that any gift or loan or night-watching should have been necessary–and now, for heaven’s sake, let us forget all about it and go back to the things we really want to do or talk of together.  Even gratitude is no enrichment to this love.  The stereotyped ‘Don’t mention it’ here expresses what we really feel.  The mark of perfect Friendship is not that help will be given when the pinch comes (of course it will) but that having been given, it makes no difference at all.  It was a distraction, an anomaly.”  -C.S. Lewis “The Four Loves”

I do not disparage here the products themselves; I have no doubt that the clothing or the make-up or the essential oils or the purses, or whatever they are, are of high quality.  I do not doubt even that my friend’s lives have been enriched by their use.  I do not make argument against them developing true friendships with others they’ve met and interacted with in their meetings.  I take issue with the pyramid-like nature of the marketing.  Downlines reek of graft and greed, no matter what words are used to describe them, such as “teams” or “communities”.  And the carrot dangled before them of wealth, health, and all other pot-at-the-end-of-the-rainbows, all demand a price, and often that price is the health of the participant’s relationships.

One particular area of discomfort for me are the companies that supply “life-changing” supplements, oils, etc at extraordinarily high prices.  There is a strange philosophy at work there, something to the effect of:  this ____ can change your life, it is very expensive but so worth it, if you get enough people to buy it from you it’ll be basically free for you, and they’ll be changed too so you can feel good about your compensation from their purchases and their subsequent downlines.  My question is, if the product is so important for human thriving, why not lower the price of it and sell it via traditional means so that it doesn’t depend on burdening human relationships and can be more accessible to those who would benefit from it?

We have all been shocked and disgusted by the pharmaceutical drug company CEO Martin Shkreli who raised the price of life-saving AIDS medicine by 5,000% in an act of wanton greed.  Was it good for share-holders’s profits?  Sure.  Was it good “business”?  Maybe on paper.  But the cost to those who could benefit from the drug is much, much too high, literally and figuratively.  This is an extreme example, but hear the heart of it; “good business” may in fact, be bad.

I have been terrified to write this article and avoided it for several months, because many people I love and cherish are involved in multi-level marketing.  I risk the offense because I think some may be unaware of how their business is affecting their relationships in a negative way.  None of us wants to feel like a potential customer, potential downline, potential anything, other than friend.

burden

 

 

Bark For Help

*A guest post today by my friend, author Kristen Joy Wilks.

Our elderly Newfoundland got frozen to the driveway last night. I know this seems like an unlikely scenario, but it’s true. Now Shamu (our dog) has trouble getting up on his own, especially when it is icy. We listen for his barking, and go and help him up when he gets stuck. We would like to cuddle him inside with a doggy bed and warm place to sleep, but Shamu loves the cool air and insists on spending a fair amount of his day flopped out on the ice enjoying the cold. Late last night my husband heard him bark. Running down the stairs he saw Shamu laying on the ice in the middle of our driveway. He went over and attempted to boost our doggy to his feet, but he was stuck.

Shamu had fallen asleep and melted the ice where he was laying. When the sun went down and the temperature dropped, that water froze his fur right to the ground.

It took a lot of tugging and chipping but my hubby finally got Shamu up and standing. He helped him take a few hobbling steps but then he wouldn’t go any further. Hubby looked back, lo and behold, Shamu’s tail was also frozen to the ground. A little more pulling and finally he got Shamu inside and toweled off.

Shamu’s plight reminded me of a Bible verse. Hebrews 12:1– “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Throwing off sin and the stuff that hinders us can be painful. Sometimes what you are throwing off is precious to you, costly to lose, even a part of who you are. Look at poor Shamu, he left five or six patches of fur frozen to our driveway. But it was worth the cost. Our dog was too old to spend the night frozen to his favorite spot. He probably would have died in the night if he had insisted on staying there.

Sometimes I think we are like Shamu, so attached to something that we stay just a little too long and have become frozen in place. Our loving father looks upon our plight, waiting for us to wake up and bark for help. The process will be painful, we might leave some patches of us behind, but we will be better off in the end if we go with our Father. He sees beyond that patch of lovely ice that has become everything to us, to works and wonders that we could never reach without Him. So don’t be afraid to bark for help, our heavenly Father is watching and waiting for all of His children who have become stuck.

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-Kristen Joy Wilks

Kristen writes fiction and her works can be found here.

KonMari-In Which A Popular, Trendy Method Actually Works

“The fact that you possess a surplus of things that you can’t bring yourself to discard doesn’t mean you are taking good care of them.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.”

-Marie Kondo.

I handed the trash bags of clothes over to the donation worker, a mild buzz of panic in the back of my mind.  They were perfectly good, most still fit me, how could I give them away?  Never mind that I always chose among a handful of other garments, leaving these ones to stagnate in the back of the drawer, or clinging to their hangers dejectedly in the closet.

As a frugal person, I thought it my responsibility to wear any usable garment until it was threadbare (even, I suppose, if it was so rarely worn that it would not visibly deteriorate for decades).  But the reality is, I just don’t wear clothes that fit too tight or too baggy, or always needed to be paired with another layer for modesty’s sake, or in any way throw up all sorts of “ugh, that thing” when I see them.  The truly responsible course is to make the garments available to someone who does need them, while they are in reasonably good shape and not years out of style.

So I ruthlessly went through my clothing, inspired by Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  I was grateful for her insight into why we keep what we keep:

“But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two:  an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”

I am nostalgic by nature, and for some reason, having the moth-eaten sixteen year-old wool sweater that Dustin bought me our first year of marriage, was my tangible link to the memory; it was almost my “hold” on that time, my anchor to the past.  Though it was too ratty to wear anywhere, I held on.  But did I, when seeing it huddled on the shelf in my closet think “Ah, the sweetness of our newly married life!” or did I feel rather a mixture of annoyance that I hadn’t gotten rid of the very tattered sweater yet and guilt that I should even think of doing so?  The latter, I’m afraid.

Fears for the future played their part as well…”But what if I need this?”.  This area was a lot easier to work with.  A simple “God provides” preached to my own heart put the fear in its place.  Besides, if I don’t want to wear it now, why would I want to wear it later on?

Probably the goofiest, and yet incredibly effective, advice she gives is to thank your possessions before you dispose of them.  That dances a bit too close to animism for my taste, but I did thank God for the items and for taking such good care of me.  I handled His gifts with respect and gratitude, preparing them to bless another’s life.  It was no longer a guilt-ridden process, but a joyful one; releasing gifts that had served me well to go on and serve another, rather than storing and neglecting them.

She recommends doing the whole process very quickly, but with my children to care for I am doing them at a pace that enables me to look after my family and not make everyone crazy.  So far I’ve worked my way through most of my family’s clothing, and half of the kitchen.  The area I am most dreading is the books!  I love my books of all kinds, and I do not anticipate this being a pleasant task, but I could be surprised.  Marie’s encouragements come to mind:

“I had been so focused on what to discard, on attacking the unwanted obstacles around me, that I had forgotten to cherish the things that I loved, the things I wanted to keep.”

and also…

“We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.”

I have already been rewarded by my modest progress.  There is deep satisfaction to pulling open my shirt drawer and seeing every one of them at a glance, folded neatly and almost filed in their vertical shapes.  I know what I have, where it is, and what I need more of.  For example, in my sorting I discovered that I only own five short-sleeved t-shirts.  Come summertime this will not be enough, so when I find a good price on them I know just what to buy, and what I do not need as well.

As a mother of five, who is always dealing with disorder, strewn toys, and messes, it gives me a thrill of joy and a lot of peace when I come into my room at day’s end and find it less like a storage room and more like a sanctuary.  My eyes can rest contentedly and not be agitated by visual reminders of work-needing-done.

I highly recommend the book, though for Christians, wade past the goofiness in order to reach the good stuff.  You’ll be glad you made the effort!